It's hard to believe that this is Day 9 of our visit to Sudan. Tomorrow afternoon we fly back to Nairobi. I'm still trying to wrap my mind around everything I've seen and heard during these past days.
As we've been traveling across Sudan from Lietnhom to Luanyker to Wau and now to Juba, I've been interviewing a variety of people. Today, I had the chance to talk with Harun Mutuma, program manager for World Concern Southern Sudan (one of our consortium partners).
Here's a snapshot of that interview:
It was 2006 when Harun began working in Lietnhom with World Concern after feeling called to work in a conflict zone.
"I have seen great changes in Lietnhom," he said. "I have seen the market grow. We are now giving business loans and providing training on business skills."
There are currently 460 members of the village bank in Lietnhom, and the opening of the bank, a concrete structure in a village consisting of tukals, was celebrated last week.
But, because South Sudan was in the midst of a civil war for more than 20 years, there is a huge need for literacy across the country.
"More than 80 percent can't read or write," Harun said. "And there is a certain level that you can't grow beyond if you can't read or write."
So his hope is to provide the necessary training and develop as many entrepreneurs in South Sudan as possible. Prior to receiving business skills training, many entrepreneurs told Harun that they kept their business records in their hearts, but now they are keeping records in notebooks, he said.
"Entrepreneurship brings new ideas, innovations and creativity," he said. "Where there are entrepreneurs, you can be sure there will be peace. When the community is stable that is when they can do business."
Harun has most recently started working in Wau, also in partnership with the Episcopal Church of Sudan, in order to expand the work that has been happening in Lietnhom. Groups were officially started on Feb. 15. By March 20, there were 10 groups with 15-25 members each. In just two months, $1,500 had been saved by those groups.
"I am happy to be seeing so many lives transformed," he said. "And, we want to expand this program to other states because it has been a success."